Barajas thrilled to reunite with Burnett on Bucs
Batterymates enjoyed successful season with Jays in '08
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Rod Barajas is a naturally cheery fellow, a grin never far from his lips.Nevertheless, the new Pirates catcher's smile was especially wide Saturday, as he contemplated an imminent reunion with the newest Pirate -- right-hander A.J. Burnett. "Ending up on the same team with him is definitely exciting," said Barajas, an offseason free-agent signee following two seasons with the Dodgers. "We had fun. It was a great relationship." They had more than fun as teammates with the 2008 Blue Jays. They had a connection. Their history as batterymates is brief, yet illustrious, and may have played a significant, if passive, role in Pirates GM Neal Huntington's pursuit of Burnett. In his one season with Barajas as his primary catcher, Burnett went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA. He has never won more than 13 in any of his other 12 seasons. Furthermore, Burnett was 14-6 with an ERA of 3.49 in his 25 starts paired with Barajas (compared to 5.68 with Gregg Zaun behind the plate). "Every day we worked together, we had a good time," Barajas said. "And he pitched well. He had a lot of success. He's got unbelievable stuff, and I figured out a way to harness it."
For one, Burnett grew unafraid to throw his best stuff, to consistently make pitcher's pitches. Often, that means throwing balls where hitters can't possibly reach them, while trusting that your catcher's mitt will.During the trade talks between the Pirates and the Yankees, and particularly following the striking of the deal on Friday, it has been popular to point out that Burnett leads all active pitchers with 124 wild pitches. Trust? Only seven of those came with Barajas as his catcher. "I definitely do think [he grew to trust me]," Barajas said. "It's a big thing when you're able to trust a teammate. When I put a finger down, it's not just a finger, but a lot of thought behind it." Now they're eager to renew that relationship. Barajas will participate in Sunday's first formal workout for pitchers and catchers. Burnett is expected to also hit camp, but possibly only to undergo his physical. Commissioner Bud Selig's approval of the deal -- necessary because of the $20 million the Yankees are also sending the Pirates -- will still be necessary before the pitcher can work out with his new club. Perhaps surprisingly, Barajas said no one from the Pittsburgh front office consulted him when Burnett became available. Not surprisingly, the former/once again teammates were in constant touch as trade rumors swirled. "We texted a few times and even talked a bit," Barajas said. "He didn't really want to leave New York but, as long as they made that decision, he's happy that he could be with me again." Beyond the rapport between the lines, of course, Barajas and Burnett will also ease each other's transition to a new team. They'll have a lot to talk about. For one, Barajas (2001 D-backs) and Burnett (2009 Yankees) become the only players in camp with World Series rings. For another ...
"We're probably the only ones here over 35, too," Barajas said, the grin again widening.